By 90Min
March 13, 2019

Former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal announced his retirement from football this week at the age of 67, confirming his intention to no longer take any further jobs after half a century in the sport.

Always brash and outspoken, leading to fall outs with players, staff, the media and fans, Van Gaal divided opinion throughout his career, but his record of developing and blooding young talent is one major positive he will always be remembered for.

Here's a starting XI of superstar players Van Gaal gave first team debuts to...

Victor Valdes (GK)

Firo Foto/GettyImages

Home grown goalkeeper Victor Valdes, a player who had first joined the Barcelona youth ranks at the age of 10, was given the nod by Van Gaal during his second spell at Camp Nou in 2002/03.

Valdes had previously played for Barcelona C and Barcelona B in the preceding few seasons but started as Van Gaal's new number one until the more established Roberto Bonano came back into the team. Valdes eventually played 535 times for Barça, winning 21 trophies.

Carles Puyol (DF)

Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

The first of the 593 games Camp Nou legend Carles Puyol played for Barcelona came in October 1999 after Van Gaal opted to promote the shaggy-haired academy graduate from the second string to the first team, initially as a right-back.

Puyol later made the transition to the centre of defence and inherited the captaincy under Van Gaal protégé Frank Rijkaard in 2004. His trophy haul when he retired in 2014 included three Champions League titles and six La Liga crowns.

Holger Badstuber (DF)

Sandra Behne/GettyImages

Holger Badstuber is the one that might have been for Bayern Munich and Germany, had several years of serious injuries not taken their toll on the once bright talent that Van Gaal made a regular starter from the age of just 20.

Having never previously played for Bayern's first team, Badstuber played 49 times during the 2009/10 season as Van Gaal steered the squad to the Champions League final. He remained a regular after the Dutchman left, but began to succumb to injuries from 2012 onward.

David Alaba (DF)

Getty Images/GettyImages

David Alaba began training with Van Gaal's Bayern first team midway through the 2009/10 campaign and was just 17 years of age when he made his debut in a Champions League game against Fiorentina, en-route to that year's final.

The Austrian defender played a total of nine games for Van Gaal and was still only 18, on loan at Hoffenheim when the Dutch master was sacked towards the end of 2010/11. Alaba then became an immediate starter back at Bayern the following season and has never looked back.

Edgar Davids (MF)

Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Edgar Davids was part of the famous golden generation Van Gaal gave rise to Ajax, culminating in Champions League glory over a fearsome AC Milan side in the 1995 final, with the tenacious Davids still part of the group that returned to the final 12 months later.

The midfielder's debut came very in Van Gaal's managerial career, just a few weeks into the 1991/92 season, and was affectionately nicknamed 'The Pitbull' by his boss. Davids later famously played for Juventus and is remembered as one as an enduring legend of the 1990s.

Clarence Seedorf (MF)

Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Another home grown starlet crucial to Ajax's Champions League success, Clarence Seedorf made his senior debut under the watchful eye of Van Gaal in November 1992 at the age of 16 and had only just turned 19 when he became a European champions in 1995.

Seedorf was one of the first to leave that great Ajax side, joining Sampdoria. He then went on to win further Champions League trophies with Real Madrid and AC Milan and is still the only player ever to have the competition with three different clubs.

Xavi (MF)

Martin Rose/GettyImages

Van Gaal gave rise to Barcelona and Spain legend Xavi a year into his first spell at Camp Nou, with the 18-year-old midfielder making his debut in the 1998 Supercopa de España. He finished that maiden season with 26 appearances in all competitions and a La Liga medal.

Xavi continued to develop and again played for Van Gaal when the Dutchman returned to Catalonia for part of the 2002/03 season. He went on to win four Champions League titles and seven further Spanish crowns, while his 767 games for Barcelona is an all-time club record.

Andres Iniesta (MF)

LLUIS GENE/GettyImages

Second on Barcelona's all-time appearance list is Andres Iniesta, another midfielder handed a senior debut at Camp Nou by Van Gaal. The very first of his 674 games came when Van Gaal started the then 18-year-old against Club Brugge in the Champions League in October 2002.

Iniesta didn't have much time to work under Van Gaal, who was sacked a few months later, and it was eventually under Frank Rijkaard that he started to become a regular. The player went on to finish second in the 2010 Ballon d'Or standings, and third in 2012.

Jesse Lingard (FW)

Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Despite winning the FA Youth Cup in 2011 and having been on the fringes of the first team for a number of years, Jesse Lingard was a surprise name on the Manchester United team-sheet for Van Gaal's first Premier League game in charge of the club in August 2014.

Unfortunately, who played as a wing-back, that day ended in injury after just half an hour. But Van Gaal brought him back into the fold just over a year later and he finished the 2015/16 by scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final. Three years on, he is increasingly important.

Patrick Kluivert (FW)

Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

An 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert was handed his senior Ajax debut in the 1994 Dutch Super Cup, the curtain raiser for the 1994/95 Dutch season. By the end of that campaign, Kluivert was the player Van Gaal turned to make the difference in the Champions League final.

Having turned 19 by then, the striker came off the bench and struck the famous late winner. He eventually went on to play for Van Gaal again at Barcelona and remains the Dutch national team's third highest goalscorer of all time.

Marcus Rashford (FW)

Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford was the last success story of Van Gaal's policy of blooding youth, handing the then 18-year-old a senior debut in difficult circumstances against FC Midtjylland during his final few months in charge at the club.

Rashford repaid the faith immediately by scoring twice, repeating the feat a few days later on his Premier League debut against Arsenal. He has now played over 150 games for the club, was handed the number 10 shirt last summer, and has 31 England caps at the age of 21.

You May Like